Kudakwashe Nyamayaro, Assistant Manager at Wilderness Safaris Davisons Camp in Hwange (Zimbabwe), wrote the most wonderful report on his time as an Eco-Mentor during the CITW Annual Camp in December.
It was almost like any other day: work as usual, but with a bit of a twist. Preparations were underway for a special event to follow. I had heard about the Children in the Wilderness (CITW) programme, but never actually participated in it, thus this was to be my first. You know that feeling when it dawns on you that a long-held opportunity you have wished for is suddenly upon you? That is how I felt every hour, minute and second leading up to the day we would finally usher in our future leaders, and custodians of our environment, culture and traditions.
The various educational materials and other gear were brought in the day before, and work began on setting up the children’s camp at Davison’s in Hwange National Park. And what a perfect a venue it is – not only is the scenery perfect, but the turnout of the animals, coupled with an exceptional staff complement, truly makes for an unforgettable experience, not only for the children but for all involved.
AND HERE THEY COME
On the 22nd November 2018, the air was filled with a mix of thunderous yet sweet melodies from the angelic voices of the young queens and kings as they arrived in their chariots of green. It was a sight to behold as their faces were bright with gleeful laughter; and then there was the energy-filled welcome party comprising our own jubilant team.
First things first, we had to get all the formalities out of the way. There were a lot of smiles, high fives, and hugs as both the children and the mentors were saying hello for the first time. Taking a page out of our forefathers’ book, one of the best ways to make a person happy is through food, and we had some of the best most delicious treats just waiting to be gobbled up. You can always tell the food is great by the silence as everyone savours both the taste and the moment.
LET THE FUN AND GAMES BEGIN
The theme for our camp was insects. When the time came for the super campers to be assigned to teams you could sense the sheer weight of their excitement, eager to find out which they would be joining. There were four teams, namely Bee, Butterfly, Dragonfly and, best for last, Moth (my team). Once allocated, the teams had a couple of minutes to get to know each other, in a mixture of excitement and hesitation. A quick remedy for this dilemma came in the form of an activity.
The first activity, with the help of team leaders, did the trick. The super campers took a walk around camp meeting camp staff in their departments, and learning about their various trades. The most popular department was the central workshop. Why the workshop, and not the office or kitchen, you may ask? Don’t rule out the opportunity to get up close and personal with one of the safari vehicles, learning how it works and how it is made. But that was just the icing on the cake, for the cherry on top was the chance to start a vehicle, and give it a light rev (under close supervision of course). That was cool… I know at that age I would have been stoked to do have the chance!
In the mornings before all the fun began, some exercises were mandatory to get the bodies moving and the blood pumping. Star jumps, press-ups, jogging, a bit of duck-duck-goose – you name it we did it.
Meal times were a blast. To get them going, we had the super campers lead us in spirited singing, a joy to listen to. The sheer vocal talent showcased was overwhelming, and we quickly found ourselves singing along. To put it into perspective, I did not know most of the songs, but still found myself singing along. This was followed by prayers and a hearty meal.
On a personal note, the best highlight of the CITW camp had to be the activities. Not only were they fun, but proved to be very effective when it came to team building. One could see the children’s growing excitement, trust and consideration for each other in the way they participated in these activities. For example, The Mine Field, which requires a team of two, taking turns to guide their blindfolded teammate, to navigate a mine field. I happened to take part in it and believe you me, it is not as easy as it sounds. Now imagine our surprise at how efficiently and effectively the super campers were able to navigate. Impressive I say.
The spider web was another activity that brought out the best in our super campers. This activity required coordination and trust, as the team had to figure out a way to get each of its members on to the other side of the web, through the web itself. It was exciting to witness the teams trying to manoeuver their way, and with a cheering squad of team leaders and guides spirits were kept high.
With Insects being the theme of the camp, no day would not be complete without some insect-based activity. Each of the four teams was given 30 minutes to go around Davison’s with their team leaders and guides in search of as many insects as they could find. This allowed for some interaction within the group as there were quite a lot of questions tossed around regarding insect identification, behaviour and habitat. However, finding the insects was only half of story, with identification, a more in-depth look at the specific insects following the hunt, and insects in general being discussed.
Game drives were a joy. Sightings were very good, indeed, the super campers were considered animal magnets, so to speak, given how spectacular the sightings were. Below are some highlights of the game seen during the game drives.
Sightings included wild dogs, a lot of elephants, and jackals, to mention but a few. One of the best moments on the drives was when one of the children asked this interesting question: “What is the difference between an elephant’s tusk and ivory?” That question gave rise to a lively and engaging debate in the vehicle. With every game drive, we were amazed at the intelligence, passion, kindness and knowledge of the super campers – so much so they rekindled my own childhood dreams and memories. This and similar educational exchanges were periodically interrupted by sightings of beautiful game, the vast landscapes, and scattered bones, which we challenged our super campers to try and identify.
The ultimate test for the super campers came in the form of a quiz. This activity was a mix of what they had learned over the past couple of days, as well as general knowledge. One would have thought the questions were a tad too hard for them, but no, they answered them correctly – especially questions to do with their surroundings. Should a team not answer its question correctly other teams would already be raising their hands to try and tackle it. Team Bee took the win, with Moth and Butterfly tied in second place and Dragonfly taking third place. However, in my eyes they were all winners as they all performed exceptionally well.
Interactions with the super campers allowed for an interesting and eye-opening exchange of knowledge, while for others such as myself, also great insight into the thought-processes and mindset of this young generation. It was interesting to hear them speak of their aspirations, and how they aim to achieve them. The future, judging from what I experienced, is bright and in very capable hands. It was a pleasure to have had been a part of this CITW camp and meet such a talented, kind, intelligent group of children. I look forward to taking part in more CITW-based activities.